Jo Robinson, Regional Director of Visit Scotland – Covid-19 and DYW Moray
Employers across the country are facing possibly the greatest crisis of a lifetime as the country battles to protect the population and our NHS from being overwhelmed by Covid-19. Young people have had their worlds turned upside down with exams cancelled for the first time in Scottish history, and education providers are working around the clock to deliver learning in a new and unprecedented way.
In tourism, we have felt the effects of COVID-19 from the early stages of the virus. In early March it became clear that global tour operators were not going to be able to travel to Scotland for our annual travel trade event in April, VisitScotland Expo, and we had to cancel the event. Sadly, it was just one of the many events scheduled to take place this spring and summer which have now been unavoidably cancelled or postponed.
The UK and Scottish Governments have worked hard to understand the needs of business at this time, and the unprecedented crisis faced by almost all industries across the country. Funding support continues to evolve and react to feedback, and at VisitScotland we are one of the many bodies communicating with government leaders about the particular challenges we face in tourism.
At VisitScotland we have reactivated the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG), part of a tried and tested emergency planning process used during Foot and Mouth disease, Avian Flu and SARS. This group will enable tourism industry bodies across Scotland to respond in a coordinated manner to the problems which result from the COVID-19 pandemic.
From a marketing perspective, we're pausing proactive paid marketing activity to promote Scotland, and echoing the ‘stay safe, stay home’ message across all our channels. We’ve also created some best practice advice on what to share on your digital channels (website and social media) during the current and evolving situation. We are still sending consumer emails from time to time with light relief and inspiration, but no encouragement to book for the time being.
Our content team, working from their own homes, created a short film, ‘Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,’ inviting our visitors from near and far to share their favourite memories of Scotland. The film encourages people to dream about visiting now, but to travel later, and is available for sharing from our YouTube channel. We are also encouraging people at home to get involved in our social media campaign sharing the unique views across Scotland using the hashtag #AWindowOnScotland. It is hoped that the campaign will remind visitors, particularly Scots currently staying at home, of the diverse scenery that is waiting for them when this isolation period ends.
We are regularly sharing market intelligence papers featuring insight from key partners like OTAs (Online Travel Agents) and other tourist boards around the world, so we're constantly looking at travel trends to allow us and the industry to know when we can restart our activity. Recovery will take time as businesses gear up and markets rebound at different speeds, but the most immediate opportunity will be with the domestic market, and we’ll be keen to work with regional partners to encourage visits from across the UK. Tourism is a resilient industry bringing economic and social benefits to every corner of Scotland, and is critical for the future well-being of all our communities.
DYW Moray faces similar challenges in maintaining a pipeline of ‘business’ when businesses understandably have their priorities elsewhere at this time. However, DYW online channels are still seeing strong engagement; so while the team can’t physically meet with employers or visit schools, they can continue to provide inspiration and facilitate engagement with the world of work for young people online.
In the early part of this year I led a sub-group of DYW Moray Board Members to review and refresh the organisation’s communications strategy. As part of that, we have produced a new format for our e-news, as well as a new website for DYW Moray. The new website has a Jobs area where we can post opportunities for school-leavers, as well as a new Blogs section where we’re keen to tell stories about the world of work from all perspectives. Longer-term, DYW Moray is considering how they can continue to offer digital engagement opportunities for young people through schools and Moray College UHI, and some of the employers we work with have indicated that they could still provide content, workplace ‘video-tours’ or mock interviews online.
We’d love to hear from you if you have jobs we can post, a story we could use in a blog or our social media, or indeed a digital engagement opportunity. Communication will continue to be of critical importance throughout this lockdown period, recovery and beyond, and the DYW Moray team now have a strong set of tools to help them engage with employers, educators, young people and their parents.
A ‘return to normal’ may not be on the cards for some time yet, but in the meantime, we must continue to celebrate the small milestones, the resilience of our communities, and the opportunities that will develop throughout and beyond this crisis.